The Problem of God’s Sovereignty
The Problem of God’s Sovereignty
God’s sovereignty over people is a very difficult concept. There are three places in the Bible where this difficulty is revealed to us. Paul makes us aware of the problem in Romans, Isaiah brings this problem to the surface, and we also find difficulty with it in the book of Job.
Romans 9:19–21 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?
Isaiah 29:16 You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?
Isaiah 45:9 “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?
Paul’s statement seems to raise more problems for us than it solves. Scripture asserts both God’s sovereignty in people’s freedom and moral responsibility. It never attempts to explain their relationship.
Let us remember these three truths.
The first truth is God’s is infinite in His ways as well as His being. A finite mind cannot comprehend an infinite being beyond what He has expressly revealed to us. Because of this some things about God will forever remain a mystery to us. The relationship of the sovereign will of God to the freedom and moral responsibility of people is one of these ministries. Scripture does not undertake to explain mysteries. Scripture leaves them unexplained. There is a difference between difficulties and mysteries. Difficulties may be removed. Mysteries cannot be removed without a new revelation or the bestowment of a higher intellect. One of the problems in dealing with the subject is we tend to view the interaction between God and man on the same level as the interaction between man and man. Psalm 50:21 These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you. We tend to think of God as being like us. We tend to think that God can act upon the human mind only in the same way we can. We can argue, persuade, or even coerce, but we cannot move a person’s will. Scripture teaches that God does move a person’s will. He moves it in such a way as the person acts freely and voluntarily. Sovereignty on a human plane suggests force and coercion people doing things against the will as in the subjection of slaves to master. Scripture never portrays God’s sovereignty in this manner. Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
Second God is never the author of sin. People’s sinful intents and actions serve the sovereign purpose of God. We must never conclude that God has induced anyone to sin. James 1:13–14 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. It is asserted in Scripture that God uses the sinful actions of men to accomplish his purposes. Genesis 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Acts 4:27–28 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. Revelation 17:17 for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. The fact that people’s sinful intents and actions serve the sovereign purpose of God does not make God the author of their sin nor make them any less responsible for their actions. God judges people for the very sins that He uses to carry out His purpose. This truth is taught in Isaiah 10:5-16.
Third Scripture consistently portrays people as making real choices of their own will. Scripture never portrays people as being mindless puppets moved by divine strength. The choices people make are moral choices. People are held accountable by God for the choices they make. The actions of Judas, Herod, and Pilate were wicked acts even though done under the sovereign appointment of God. The selling of Joseph into slavery was a malicious, wicked act by his brothers even though the act accomplished the sovereign purpose of God. Scripture teaches both the sovereignty of God and the free moral choices of men with equal emphasis. It is impossible for us to reject either of these great truths. It is equally impossible for our minds to reconcile them.
Is it possible for us to use this concept as an excuse for our own short comings?
What other concept is in the realm of the secret things that are not revealed to us?